I have to say that we got off to a bad start in Chengdu. Everything was going great with our arrival at the airport until we boarded the airport shuttle bus. OMG what a fiasco! They had the freight doors open underneath the bus but would not allow anyone to put their luggage in and they made us all take our bags onto the bus. Imagine a bus that is PACKED with people and everyone’s bags are piled in the aisle. People were climbing over luggage to get to the rear of the bus for a seat – it was absolute craziness. As we were traveling I suddenly realized the nightmare it was going to be getting off at our stop. I literally got stuck in the aisle trying to get to my bag that was sandwiched between everyone else’s luggage but a very nice man helped us get our bags out of there so that we could actually get off the bus. We made a mental note – NO more airport shuttle’s while in China!
The shuttle bus stop was in the city center but we still had to get to our hotel. So our thought was to get a taxi when we got off the shuttle bus which really shouldn’t be a problem being a main road and all. Hailing taxi’s everywhere else has been pretty easy but no not in Chengdu – it seems the taxis are reluctant to pick up foreigners (maybe they are afraid of the language barrier and just don’t have the energy to deal with that or maybe they think that the foreigner won’t have the hotel information in Chinese) so getting a taxi was difficult. So we kind of hijacked one that was dropping someone off and he finally agreed to take us but he wasn’t thrilled about it.
Our hotel was nice and in a good location but it was very noisy and the staff were not very helpful. It was close to some of the attractions in the city and we could walk to the subway station (had we known that we would have taken the subway instead of a taxi from the shuttle stop).
This was the view on our street during the day and at night – it was a cool neighbourhood. There was a beautiful park and two temples just around the corner.
The next morning we woke up really early because we wanted to take a taxi to go see the Giant Pandas. We really thought that because we were in a more touristic area that getting a taxi would be easier than the day before – wrong. To top things off it was pouring rain, so there we stood in the rain trying hard to get a taxi, granted many of them were already taken by customers but there were still some empty ones that drove right past us and would not stop.
So we did a quick change of plans and decided to put off the panda viewing until the next day. We took the subway to go see the Ming Tombs of Shu King (we had missed seeing the Ming Tombs in Beijing so we thought we could see something similar here). We got off the subway and walked in one direction for a while and then decided that it probably wasn’t the right way so we turned around. Meanwhile locals are looking at us and probably wondering what the hell we were doing there. Then we got on what we thought was the right road and walked and walked and walked but then for some reason we second guessed ourselves and turned around. We went back to where the subway was and a group of ladies said hello to us so we asked them directions, well we showed them where we wanted to go on a map because they could not speak or understand English. They chatted to us in Chinese like we understood them even though I was standing there smiling and shaking my head saying that I don’t understand. All of a sudden one of the ladies decided to really try to help us, she had us follow her one direction where she asked someone for directions but they didn’t know where this place was. Then she took us another direction and at this point she was running with our map ahead of us and we were running behind her (not sure why we were running but maybe she thought we were in a hurry), She decided to bring us into a place called a ‘Service Center’ which is a place that looked like it issued licenses. She asked the guys there to help us but they could barely speak English. Fortunately one of them spoke enough English to show us where we were on the map and where we needed to go. According to him it turned out we were on the right road to begin with but didn’t walk far enough. So off we go, back to the original road we started on and we walk all the way to the end – never saw the place we were looking for. At the end of the street was a fitness club and a nice girl from Taiwan asks us in near perfect English if we need help – of course we rush inside and show her where we are trying to go. She discusses this with the other girls working there and they determine that we walked passed it and have to go back the way we came. So she flags down a motorized rickshaw and asks the driver to drop us off at a bank that is apparently really close to the tombs and she said the people in the bank can direct us to the site. So off we go, when we see where we are getting dropped off we laugh our heads off because it is the same corner that we started out on where the lady ran with our map. So we go inside the bank and the security guy offers to help us and looks at our map (his English was okay) and tells us that the site is no longer there. Well that was 3 or more hours that we won’t get back but we laughed so hard at the fact that we had been on that same corner a half dozen times – it was just too funny. We took the subway back to the hotel to regroup and decide what to do next.
When we were back at the hotel ‘regrouping’ we found a traveler’s blog online and they visited this site in 2009, but back then the site was locked up and they managed to find a caretaker to unlock the passage way to the tombs. Anyways we did walk past that spot a number of times today (not knowing that was the actual site – there were no signs at all) but now we don’t feel so bad because we probably never would have found the caretaker to open it up for us anyways.
Later in the afternoon we ventured out again and walked to Jinli Old Street. It’s a very cultural street and shows what Sichuan looked like during the Qing Dynasty. It was a really nice place to stroll around and we managed to sample some awesome traditional food here. We had Zhong Dumplings in a red spicy sauce, Chengdu Noodles, some kind of sweet pancake wrap, and then a crunchy shoestring potato pancake.
After walking around most of the day, we decided to take the bus back to our hotel but we ended up taking the bus from the wrong side of the street. When we realized that we were not traveling in the right direction we just opted to stay on the bus thinking it would just loop back around – that was not the case, there was no looping. We got to the end of the route and we had to get off. We noticed what looked like a skytrain and stood there looking at the board and our map to see if any of the stops might be close to our hotel (we were really far from our hotel). Lucky for us a nice lady notices us with our map and asks us where we are going (she points to some destinations on a board) but she did not speak any English, we show her on the map where we need to go. Moments later another lady walking by (she doesn’t speak English either) jumps into the conversation and using hand signals she tells us what bus we need to be on and where to catch it. So off we go again and get on the bus and yes we made it back to our hotel – disaster averted. Talk about being lost in translation and we joked that if we would have been on The Amazing Race we would have come in dead last. After that kind of day we had to have a couple of beers and laugh it all off, Chengdu chewed us up!
Well at this point we were feeling pretty deflated in Chengdu but then we saw this!
They are endangered and not many are left in the wild. We visited them at the Chengdu Research Base of the Giant Panda and Breeding. They sure eat a lot of bamboo!
It was wonderful to see these beautiful animals and we were very lucky to have been able to see baby Pandas. They do a lot of research here and they have been pretty successful with breeding which hopefully will ensure the survival of the Giant Panda.
We also had the opportunity to view Red Pandas, they are so much smaller than the Giant Pandas.
Later in the afternoon we visited another cultural district Kuanzhai Xiangzi which are ancient alley’s near our hotel. These alley’s date back to the Qing Dynasty and they used to be a city within the city of Chengdu.
We couldn’t leave Sichuan Province without trying the Sichuan Chicken and enjoying a nice cold beer in the courtyard of the hotel – this was so spicy that I could only eat a little of it and I’m quite used to eating spicy food.
I would love to say we really liked Chengdu but we kind of didn’t and it wasn’t just because we got off to a not so great start. If it wasn’t for the Pandas, I think we could have given Chengdu itself a miss. It was still an experience though and we always appreciate that about traveling and those Pandas were so adorable!
Where we stayed: Wenjun Mansion
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel